Skip to main content

tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  August 22, 2014 1:46am-2:38am EDT

1:46 am
you can ignore hood. the problem is i found out in decades of research, the problem with ignoring him is that the facts get in the way. facts are strange things. and when you get beyond this rather superficial stuff that people like pollard and greeley and some of the others have written and get down to looking at the facts, things begin to look quite different from what they were originally in your mind. we don't have time to get into a lot of this but let me just give you one example. at the very beginning of the campaign according to joseph e. johnston in his memoirs. his army numbered about 43,000 men. on may 1st, at and near dalton in northwestern georgia. but there's a fact that in the official records there's a document dated april 30th, the
1:47 am
day before, in which johnston himself reported to the confederate government that he had 55,000 men present for duty. i don't know what happened to those 12,000 men on the night of april 30th-may 1st. mass desertion. who knew. maybe the radioactive atomic cloud got there and wiped out 12 thousand of his men. or the question of casualties. johnston had his medical director, johnston lost according to his medical director 9,972 men killed and wounded in his infantry and artillery in may and june. historians have taken that up. and said johnston lost 9,972 men and they ignore those qualifications. killed and wounded. infantry and artillery, may and june. what about prisoners? what about men lost to sickness during the retreat?
1:48 am
one time, johnston said he was losing 300 men a day to sickness. what about deserters? hood said johnston lost 22,750 men. you make reasonable estimates for casualties in the cavalry, in the first two weeks in july which included the evacuation of kennesaw mountain. and the retreat across the river when there were a lot of desertions. you make reasonable estimates for number of prisoners. you wind up pretty close to the 22,750 men that hood had specified. what i'm getting at in all of this is if you get into all the facts, johnston begins to look a lot less brilliant. hood tends to look a lot better, and a lot of the writing about the atlanta campaign in the last 20 or 30 years has been moving in that direction. so that the view of the campaign
1:49 am
that a lot of us were given or read about when we were growing up is changing and it turns out that joseph e. johnston is not regarded now by a lot of people as the greatest thing since grits. he was regarded as a general who retreated into the very heart of the confederacy. it is true he did not lose any great battles in 1864 or at any other time, but it is also true that his retreat into the atlanta area was a political and logistical disaster for the confederacy and johnston's once exalted reputation has begun to come down. why do i call this the general in the jar? many years ago, the folks at the dallas-ft. worth round table were kind enough to invite me to come and speak.
1:50 am
i was speaking on the atlanta campaign. and there is a gentlemen in that round table whose hobby is making little figures about yea high of civil war people. if you've got a speaker open jefferson davis, he will make a little figure of jefferson davis like this and he will mount that figure on a wooden disk, a circular disk and put a glass bell jar over it and present it to the speaker. it's a nice gesture. so he had seen i was speaking on the atlanta campaign and he was certain that i was going to tell him what a great general joseph e. johnston was. when i finished my talk, he got up to give me this little figure of joe johnston that he had made. he had a rather sheepish look on his face and he said would you like me to take this and make one of hood?
1:51 am
what are you going to do saw off one of the legs? i mean that's what the doctor did. but it's a wonderful little thing. it's a nice item. anybody interested in the civil war would like to have this to put on the mantle piece. i was very glad to get it. i thanked him for it. took it back to the motel that night. i was going down to waco to speak down there. wrapped it up in an old dirty t-shirt, put it very carefully in my suitcase. went down to waco in the rental car the next day. spoke there, came back. went to the airport at dfw. checked the bag to go to washington because i was going up there to a smithsonian program, spend a few days at my brother's doing research in the archives. did that. jar still wrapped up in its t-shirt. went back after i finished to
1:52 am
the airport, checked the bag to go back to my home. changed planes in atlanta. they change the bag to the little world war i plane that they use between atlanta and albany, georgia. got down to albany, picked up my suitcase, put it in the car, and drove back. i was convinced that bell jar had broken and it would be a million pieces of glass i would throw out everything in the suitcase. but i got home. opened the suitcase. very carefully unwrapped the bell jar. the glass bell jar was fine, but somewhere in the jarring around the little figure of joe johnston had gone -- that seems very symbolic. thank you people. i hope i've given you something to think about. [ applause ]
1:53 am
1:54 am
thank you very much paul. and thank you all very much for coming. merchant of terror, demon, a killer. if you type was sherman a into
1:55 am
google the auto complete includes war criminal, hero or villain. and if you add a couple more letters you get terrorist. the urban dictionary, a popular website, describes generally william t. sherman as having employed the vicious tactic of targeting civilians. continuing, such tactics had previously been deemed morally unacceptable. the deliberate targeting of the civilians for attack was taken up in world war ii ending in the deaths of millions. the bombing of european cities by both sides of the war and japanese cities by the u.s., as well as attacks on civilians in china, the philippines and korea by japan were consistent with and encouraged by sherman's precedent. the logic of saving lives in the long run by these tactics seems to have been refuted by history. finally if you scroll through this entry, the words related to
1:56 am
general william t. sherman tags at the bottom include "collateral damage, modern warfare, furd, tmurder, terrori war criminal." now let me little a more modest and fair here. this is not the best source out there on sherman. it was written by somebody named text in tex. it was written and misquotes sherman at one point. and i'll always concede it does also include war hero. but what this does represent is a popularly held view that william t. sherman and the march through georgia and the carolinas during the finally months of the civil war have something to do with the creation of total war. and the millions of civilian deaths in the wars of the 20th and 21st century can somehow be laid at his feet.
1:57 am
nor does this view reside entirely on the internet, noted repository of kind of crack pot theories. a history of henry county georgia explains sherman's march to the sea was the first hint of the content of total war which was to come to full fruition during the second world war in which civilian infrastructure is considered a legitimate military target. later writers notably james reston junior tried to connect sherman's march to the atrocities in vietnam. and reston made the argument. he said that when a rash confederate ventured a shot on his trains from a courthouse, the courthouse was burned. when a lady burned her corn crib, she lost her house. the proportionality, this is still reston, of the retaliation is roughly the same if geometrically less as hostile fire from jungle rifle being greeted by b-52 strike.
1:58 am
one of the issues that comes into play when we talk about sherman and these questions of total war and the laws of war is that people seem to use pretty slippery definitions. often sherman seems to be judged by the standards of today, rather than of his own time. often when -- not as much historians, but when people use "total war" they seem to be referring to the degree of mobilization rather the range of targets. what i want to do is take closer look at sherman's march in the context of changing union policy os over the course of the war and see what he was doing and whether that fell within the bounds of civilized warfare. so in 1864 there were no hague or geneva conventions to govern the actions of belligerents. and that is not to say no guides for military behavior and conduct.
1:59 am
but these rules were very fluid and evolving and changing as the very nature of the civil war changed. so initially, union policy towards the confederacy and its civilians has been one of known as conciliation. the idea that there was this silent majority of unionists in the confederate states and all he needed to do was animate them and they would rise up and the states would rejoin the union. this conciliation policy therefore meant a really sort of narrow focus on targeting the confederate armies rather than antagonizing southern civilians. and in effect southern civilians were still being treated as though they were u.s. citizens rather than civilians of belligerent nation. how to in 1862 that began to change and during the summer
2:00 am
union general john pope had issued a series of orders that allow virginia to assist on the produce of the local countryside and lincoln was frustrated by the progress of the war to that point so he approved these orders. pope's soldiers went on a tear of destruction and violence, reminiscent actually of the stories that would come out of georgia and the carolinas two years later. and so great were the abuses perpetrated on civilians that pope actually had to kind of backtrack and condemn his men for being so out of control. so that's happened. at the same time in the summer of 1862 lincoln has come to the realization that he needs to use emancipation as a war measure. and once he issued the preliminary emancipation proclamation in september of 1862, the opportunity for this policy of conciliation to work was pretty much over and the war would become in historian mark
2:01 am
rimsly's phrase, "hard handed". at the same time. so all of this is all happening simultaneously in different levels. the union war department had begun consulting with a prussian born professor named francis lieber about devising a military code. lieber then in turn called his 1863 work a code for the government of armies. but the war department issued it as general orders number 100 and it's more popularly become to be known as the lieber code. the fs designed to codify the laws of war and particularly as they pertain to the interactions between civilians and soldiers. one of the most significant sections of the code are articles 14 through 16, which very carefully delineate military necessity. lieber has a pretty broad definition of that that deplores
2:02 am
cruelty and acts of vengeance as he would put it, but did allow for the making of war in civilians in specific situations and in fact there is a sort of tension internal to the lieber code over what's military necessity and what is going too far? so he does explain further in article 17. he says war is not carried on by arms alone. it is lawful to starve the hostile belligerent, armed or unarmed so it it leads to the speedier subjection of the enemy. he talks also in a later article, the citizen or native of a hostile country is thus an enemy. as one of the constituents of the hostile state of nations and as such is subjected to the hardships of war. so it is clear from lieber's code that there are ways that civilians can be targeted. because of the fact that
2:03 am
civilians are presumed to be inherently helping their military. that being said, among the code's prohibitions however were the theft and/or destruction of art works and the like. and now under punishment of death. this once again is liebers's language. all destruction of property not commanded by the authorized officer, all robbery, all pillage or sack iing even after taking place by main force, a rape, wounding, maiming or killing of such inhabitants. so there is a line and that line seems to be physical violence against civilians. you can destroy their property, some of it. not their art. which is nice. i mean -- but there is limits. now, confederates when they read the lieber code complain that
2:04 am
it's so broad that as to license mischief under the grounds of military necessity. also, by 1864 when sherman is preparing for the march, lincoln and the union in general had become comfortable with a high degree of destruction of private property. cotton could be burned easily. the contents of homes. if not the homes themselves in areas like missouri and the shenandoah valley. so one can argue that the lieber code, at least as it pertained to the treatment of civilians and their property, was probably honored more in the breach than it was followed to the letter. just after the war, something called field service in war by francis j. lippet was published. a manual specifically on military logistics. and he also leans on this doctrine of military necessity
2:05 am
to justify forageing. and he argues foragings was a quote, well-established right of war. he does concede though there need to be restraints placed on forageing because as he put it to do otherwise would be to bring dishonor on the country. and lip it's work, i know it's published after the war but it will all make sense it. dmomt demonstrates the compl complexity of the moral issues that surround forageing. you are inflicting hardship on that civilian population. and so in order to inflict, sort of, the magical right amount of hardship, enough but not undo, to operate within the moral boundaries of civilized warfare, officers need to maintain very
2:06 am
tight control. and lippet explains that without defined foraging parties and centralized systems chaos could ensue and the army would really descend into a sort of armed mob engaging in pillage and so forth. so what's interesting is that you would have expected lippet to use sherman's march as his examples as he's making this complicated case. he doesn't. he actually goes back to napoleon's russian campaign. and he doesn't ignore the march when he's talking about a arm can descend into chaos. that's where he used napoleon. he actually defends sherman's march. and explains how to men carefully discriminated and this is the language from sherman's orders. discriminated between the rich
2:07 am
who were generally hostile to us, meaning the union, and the poor and industrious who were usually friendly or at least neutral. and he also describes sherman as having this very organized system. and with rules and receipts. and he explains that any deviations from this nice, orderly foraging system on the march as he put it were the fault of a few bad apples, stragglers and the like. not the main force of the marchers. kind of talk about that in a minute. the ore piece i want to include in here is that white southerners during the march and immediately afterwards frequently drew comparisons between sherman's march and robert e. lee's invasion of maryland in 1862 and 63 and often quoted lee's general order
2:08 am
72 in the gettys burg campaign. and reminded them the duties expected of us by civilization and christianity are not less obligatory in the area of the enemy than in our own. and we make war only upon armed men and we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all who's abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies. so lee is often praised for these orders, right? that he's restraining his men and relying on their inherent gentility. that is a reading of what actually happened and many of these defenders of lee ignore the many wrongs perpetrated by lee's men specifically when they kidnapped african americans to sell into slavery into virginia.
2:09 am
so we'll set that aside. okay i've got an little ahead of myself and a little offtrack. let's talk now specifically about short-termen aerman and h. despite allegations to the contrary sherman himself was very well aware that war was governed by rules. these charges against sherman, you know, is he a war criminal, generally focus on two events. they focus on the march obviously which i'll talk about. but they also focus on his expulsion of civilians from atlanta. so sherman's army took control of the city of atlanta on september 2, 1864. they weren't planning to stay for very long. but he did want his men to use their time in the city for sort of recharging, to rest a little
2:10 am
bit after the riggeors of the campaign to take atlanta. and he didn't want his men distracted by confederate operatives or women and children. he didn't want to have to feed women and children. and he didn't want to have to leave any men behind to hold onto the city of atlanta when he pulled out of the city. so he famously ordered civilians, unionists and c confederates out of the city and gave them ten days which to comply. and it was about 1,200 people effected by this. many have used his september 12, 1864 letter to the mayor of atlanta in which he famously wrote, quote, war is cruelty and you cannot refine it. to make the argument that he was willing to do whatever worked. to wreak all kinds of havoc on civilians nord civilians in order to end the war. but in other letters written at the same time, sherman's quite explicit about following the rules and laws of war.
2:11 am
in fact he was quite angry when confederate general john bell hood challenged had legitimacy of evicti ining civilians from atlanta and he wrote, i think i understand the laws of civilized nations and the customs of war. and then he suggested maybe the confederates ought to be taking better care of prisoners at andersonville. in his final letter to hood he wrote he was not by the wars because he said the city had been fortified and was being used for military purposes. see the books, he testily concluded. so what of the march itself? before sherman left atlanta on november 15, 1864, he set some ground rules for his 62,000 men.
2:12 am
and he did them in the form of his special field orders number 120. there are nine articles altogether. the first several describe how he is going to divide up the army and their marching orders and then some center sections that in fact deal explicitly with what the army could and could not do along the march. so the men were instructed to, quote, forage liberally on the country and destroy mill, houses, cotton gins, etc. but within limits. the foraging parties were supposed on the regularized and under the control of discrete officers. soldiers were not supposed to enter homes, as long as -- and if the army was left unmolested, southern property was also supposed to be left alone. so essentially what sherman is saying, is if a group of union foragers came on to a farm or
2:13 am
plantation and they were allowed on and nobody was shooting at them or smarting off to them, then they were supposed to just leave all the property. and again, sherman also ordered that when seizing livestock in familiar, his men as i said ought to discriminate between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor and industrious, usually neutral or friendly. and if the arm was well-treated during their foraging, they were instructed to quote, leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance. so he is setting parameters. now, most of these rules were really more -- more honored in the breech than in reality. they are pretty elastic. but i think that the very existence of these rules gave sherman and to a lesser extent
2:14 am
his men a degree of i think moral cover. or at least that is what sherman is trying to achieve. they also allow for a certain elasticity. so you could treat some people more harshly and others more leniently. and there is pretty good evidence that in fact the march does have a sort of ebb and flow to it. certainly it is pretty harsh in georgia. it is extremely harsh in south carolina. and then the men are ordered to really pull back and be less destructive in north carolina because north carolina was perceived to have a lot of unionists. so i don't really want to come away from today thinking i'm a kind of apologyist for sherman's march or that i'm in any way trying to minimize the very real damage and devastation that the soldiers left in their wake. but what i am trying to say that the men were bound by rules and
2:15 am
they knew they were bound by rules. sherman certainly believed that he was operating within the laws of war and the parameters of civilized behavior. he's also willing to push exactly up to those boundaries of those rules. framing people, stealing their supplies, burning their barn, burning their houses even was one thing for sherman. i do think this the kind of wholesale killing, sexual violence as happened in areas ridden by gorilla violence, like missouri for example, was really beyond the pale for sherman's men by and large. sherman biographer michael fellman has argued that while the march quote stopped well short of a total war in the 20th century nazi sense, his rhetoric of destruction implied that he could make war on whomever he chose and that southern whites
2:16 am
would be powerless to stop him. and sherman is certainly well aware of the psychological impact of what he allowed his men to do and encouraged his men to do. does that make sherman a terrorist? he used his calculated brutality to terrorize the southern population. fellman i think really tries to split hairs as much as possible and describes sherman as having, quote, terrorist capacities. i also think there is some responsibility, clearly, for both destroying and reigning themselves in that accrues to the soldiers themselves on the march. and part of the reason that the march was not "total" in the 20th century sense because the veterans limited themselves held back by own internal and cultural sense of morality. i've done a lot of read toing o the march because i have this book coming out this summer.
2:17 am
and i will tell you there are very few instance of the doctor there is not murdering. there is not killing. there is not lining people up and shooting them. there is definitely some violence but not the kind of violence those associated with wars in the 20th and 21st centu centurys. so sherman himself may have overstepped the bounds of legality a few times. each time in retaliation for confederate actions and these charges again are regarding his use of prisoners of war. in the first instance he learned that torpedos or mines had been buried outside of savannah and called for prisoners of war to be brought up to clear the mines, not wanting to risk his own men. and then in the second, a group of union foragers had been captured and killed by wade hampton's men in south carolina and he urged a group of prisoners of war to draw lots
2:18 am
and had one man executed to set a retaliatory example. but, i would argue, what keeps sherman from being a terrorist in the modern sense is that he was operating during wartime with full sanction and full support of his government. and when the war ended, so too does his hostilities and his destruction. in many ways i think that a better analogy to terrorism in the wake of the civil war would be the waves of violence that confronted african americans during reconstruction, as they thought to exercise their new economic and social and political freedoms. and so this notion that sherman brought forth some new kind of war with the march really only makes sense in retrospect. it wasn't -- at the time people didn't perceive it as such. as the 19th century became the 20th and as wars of increasing deadliness and destructive power broke out around the globe, the march seemed to reappear again
2:19 am
and again. and often the analogies surrounding the march are strained. what they do is they reveal i think this evolving notion of the march that somehow the march becomes increasingly destructive as it is repeatedly compared to more modern or more current wars. and i'm going to just suggest a few things, give you a few examples of this. so sherman's march was invoked frequently when germany marched into belgium in 1914. often to actually remind americans of the costs of involvement of war, even when justifiable. once the united states became involved in world war i this usable past of sherman's march ceased to be a significant point of discussion. although, it kid reappear briefly after the war and i'm excited to talk about this in this room. which was that during testimony
2:20 am
before the senate committee on propaganda in 1919, grant's w e squires a new york lawyer who visited belgium testified to the atrocities he saw with the germans. men and women beat within rifle butts, children murdered and families starving without shelter. he was then asked to counter testimony given earlier by a german sympathizer, dr. you had mund van ma. to quote that sherman's march quote had also been a --. and american soldiers had quote, never killed women and children. whatever they did, they did not do that. and nelson, specifically asked squires to address van mach's
2:21 am
charges that the charges were no worse and the squires then confirmed that the germans were different than sherman's march. so what a i'm -- what i see coming out of this is this sense that there is a new standard set for violations of civilians. that where once short-teermansh thefts and fires were the worst people could imagine t great war issued horrors of a entirely different order of magnitude. interestingly there are very few mentions of the march during worlgd war two i was able to come across. but in the vietnam era perhaps because it coincided with the ce centennial of the civil war raised all sorts of analogies to the march. components of the war in vietnam compared sherman's actions to the actions of american soldiers in vietnam. the most detailed and culturally
2:22 am
significant exploration of this relationship somehow between short-termen a sherman and veto name came in james reston junior's 1984 book sherman's march and vietnam. where reston retraces the march through georgia and he's looking at the past to try to explain the turbulent present, this postvietnam world he's living in and he seems at times to draw this straight line this, straight connection, between 19th and 20th century violence. and here is a passage from this. general williams sherman is considered by many to be the author of totally war. the first general of modern hume history to dairy logic of war to ultimate extreme. the first to scorch the earth. the first to wreck an economy to starve soldiers. our first merchant of terror and our spiritual father. and the spiritual father some
2:23 am
contend of our vietnam concept of search and destroy, passification, strategic hamlets, free fire zones. as such he remains a cardboard figure of our history. a monstrous arch villain to unreconstructed southerners, an embarrassment to northerners who wonder if civilized war died with him. whether without sherman the atom bomb might not have been dropped or vietnam entered. now reston concedes after this passage that maybe he is getting -- this is a more metaphorical than real. but he's -- he is really trying to argue that there is, once you loose the bounds, the bounds were constantly loosed. he's trying to make an argument too that sherman's veterans -- that sherman's soldiers and he
2:24 am
put hs them west moreland soldiers has an desire for vengeance and reprisal and where they differed is just in matters of scale which he says is more a function of technology than of desire. and it seems worse in the 19th century because they had weapons of mass destruction and in the in the 19th they didn't. i don't buy it. let me conclude by evoking something what if today? where does sherman fit today? he sometimes is invoked in discussions of the ike waraq wa. again, this would be the dark reaches of internet where people are saying things like if only sherman had been in iraq or afghanistan. okay. just the other day though my --
2:25 am
on tuesday actually, my trusty google alert for sherman's march pointed me to a column on foreign policy entitled "sherman as a counterinsurgent." he argued he was embarking on a counter insurgency. not a heart and minds campaign. but instead a tough minded, you are either with us or against us approach with clear political and psychological dimensions. i read his column over a bunch of times. i'm not really convinced by his argument. but where i think his work is useful and what i am convinced of is that sherman's march and its relationship to what americans think about war is still very much alive and very much relevant today. thank you very much.
2:26 am
[ applause ] i'm happy to answer any questions. there we go. >> yeah, can you address a little -- you talked a lot about the topic from the standpoint of what sherman ordered. can you address kind of what actually was happening on the ground for the union troops? in particular, as may marched through the swath of the south, they obviously disrupted the society that was going on. but in particular, how did his men handle african american slaves? >> that is a great question. and actually my book, i have a whole chapter on the relationship between the march and african americans. as sherman's men marched
2:27 am
through -- the first thing i would say is there is this misconception that people say oh, sherman's men cut a swath 50 miles wide or 60 miles wide. that is -- i always tell my students you don't want to think of it like a lawn mower strip. it is not 50 miles wide of lawn mower. it is 50 miles from the edge of one column through four columns to the furthest edge of the other. so in many ways it is very -- what is the word oi'm looking for. not sporadic or episodic. but sometimes a house is targeting and other houses a mile away are not targeted. that being said, where sherman's men and him and african american african americans is a really interesting question. i love paul's that sherman's army was probably one to great armies of liberation. they are not probably very willing liberators.
2:28 am
sherman was not -- certainly not a fan of racial equality or after the war according civil rights to african americans. he did not -- he was perfectly content as they went on the to plantations to have his men liberate the slaves and announce they were free. but then he was always telling them to stay put. because he doesn't want them following after his army. and of course he's unable to present african americans from following his army. so by the time he gets from atlanta to georgia there are probably about 25,000 african americans who have followed his army. and he doesn't want them. he's perfectly willing, and actually there is a section in his orders to take able-bodied african american men and put them in his pioneer corps and have them work as teamsters and things like that. he does not want to have to feed women and children or elderly people. he tries to leave them behind. there is a horrific episode outside of savannah in a place
2:29 am
called ebeneazer creek where sherman's men or a section of his army under the command of sherman's subordinate general, jefferson davis -- no relation -- and then you have the african americans who are following them. and then you have wheeler's confederate cavalry kind of behind that. and what happens is they use pontoon bridges to get through this river or swampy area. it's kind of a cypress swamp. and then davis orders the pontoon bridges pulled up so the african americans can't cross. and they are being chased by wheeler's cavalry. hundreds of them wind up drowning in the swamp and hundreds end up being recaptured by the cavalry. and when the news gets out sherman is condemned for not condemning davis. so it is tangled, i guess is the
2:30 am
short answer. >> one consequence is the rise in diversion rates from soldiers whose homes were in the area the army went through. was this a circumstance or one of the goals? >> i don't think sherman was directly hoping to influence the army of northern virginia. where i think sherman actually was directly trying to target the army of northern virginia was not through desertion but through supplies. that by, first of all, breaking the rail line from atlanta which had been a major supply line up to petersburg and then by just raiding through, you know, this relatively untouched area to deprive them of supplies. and i think also there was a
2:31 am
sense -- he definitely was k cognizant of the psychological impact, that he wanted people to know that he could not be stopped. and in fact any kind of rumors that might have come out about how vicious they were or how violent, he was comfortable with that because he felt there would be this deeper psychological impact. >> 50 years before the event you are talki ing about we hand episode similar to here. literally when the british came to washington after the battle of the braidanceburg and the sewell belmont house. somebody took a pot shot another general ross as he arrived in the capital plaza. killed his horse and general ross made a order of that house
2:32 am
burned but made a point to not specifically damage other property. and contrasted that to the uncivilized behavior of americans at york and other canadian towns they burned and looted. he said far more civilized than those terrible americans he said. so is general ross ahead of his time? was he unique at his time? or what was going on then? >> i'm far from an expert in the war of 1812. but i don't think that ross was ahead of his time. i mean, i think that -- ross ahead of his time? do you mean in burning the civilian house or? not burning everything else. no, i mean there is an argument to be made for only limiting your destruction to private buildings. i will also say that with sherman, the vast majority of buildings or structures that sherman's men burned were not actually private homes. it was again, the sort of -- the places that gave material support to the confederacy.
2:33 am
barns, gin houses, cotton -- big bails of cotton. they burn remarkably few houses. and it is fascinating to me one of the areas that i explore in actually about the cultural memory of sherman's march, is in fact the different reasons that houses along sherman's route were saved. because you can't have it both ways. you can't have sherman cutting this 50-mile swath and have dozens and dozens of antebellum homes surviving. there were reasons this house was spared or that house was spared. >> i'm also a tour guide. i take people past the statue of the horse, william tecumseh sherman, the house. the revisionist history, i say, war is a pathway to a more perfect peace. and i wonder if this
2:34 am
psychological effect, when he brought his children, when the family came to chattanooga, and his son died, another son named willie, how much of a psychological effect do you think it ha in making -- some say it made him manic and mean. what do you think? >> i think it was tragic for him, as losing a child would be for anybody. i think that -- i don't think sherman was mean. i think that sherman was clear-eyed. which is to say that i think sherman recognized that the way you stop a war is you make the war too costly. and that in so doing, he also really did believe that he was saving his men, because -- look, his men, they thought the march was great. they loved it. you know, they had more to eat than they normally did. they marched less each day than
2:35 am
they normally did. with very few exceptions, nobody ever shot at them. from sherman's perspective, saving his men's lives while bringing the war to a more rapid close, so i -- i don't think he's mean. i think he's -- he has a job, and he's willing to do what it takes. >> could you speak to how, in 1864, northern papers were covering the march, and were there lincoln opponents to pointed out anything different than had been happening? >> that's a great question. there's very little coverage of the march itself, because from november 15th, until he's right outside of savannah, there's almost no news coming out of the march. the northern paper i've looked at the most in terms of its coverage of the march has been harper's weekly, because i was
2:36 am
looking for images, and it does have great images of the march. but it's mostly celebratory. i'll be perfectly honest with you, i've not looked specifically at democratic newspapers. there's not a sense at the time that sherman is doing anything beyond the pale, or anything radical radically -- nobody's thinking that sherman's created this new kind of warfare. what sherman is doing of what, say, sheridan had done earlier in the valley in 1864. grant, famously instructs sheridan, that a crow flying over will have to carry his own provender with him. they see in the progress of sherman that his progress is helping to win the war. i mean, the reason that he turns at savannah and goes up through the carolinas, he's trying to
2:37 am
get to petersburg, ultimately, to help out grant. not to steal any of matt's thunder, but that was my problem with the movie "lincoln" is that there was no sherman in it. >> one of my favorite cities in america is savannah, georgia. can you talk about his decision to save that beautiful city, and give it to president lincoln as a christmas gift? >> that is the nicest, most gentile description i've ever heard of that. because normally, sherman didn't decide to save savannah, sherman said, look, you can surrender, or i'm going to shell you into submission. he gave them a choice. and savannahans said, we're going to surrender. in fact, they earned the enmity of every other place in the south. because they were weak and they gave up. that's just the nicest way i've ever heard that played. >> i'm


disc Borrow a DVD of this show
info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on